The Indianapolis Star, Indiana's biggest newspaper, has a simple message for Gov. Mike Pence (R), who on Thursday approved the state's controversial religious freedom law: "Fix this now."
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is meant to allow religious people to challenge laws that "substantially burden" their religious exercise. But it's come under fire from celebrities and businesses, such as Angie's List, Apple, and Yelp, who claim it could allow employers, landlords, and business owners to deny employment, housing, and service to LGBT people on religious grounds, even where there are local laws in place that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Indianapolis Star's Stephanie Wang reported that legal experts generally doubt the law will be a license to discriminate. But the Star's editorial board claimed the law is causing a great deal of harm to Indiana's reputation: "All of this is at risk because of a new law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that no matter its original intent already has done enormous harm to our state and potentially our economic future."
But the editorial doesn't call for the repeal of Indiana's religious freedom law, instead advocating for a nondiscrimination law that would protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, and other places that serve the general public). A few states, including Connecticut, Illinois, and New Mexico, protect LGBT people from discrimination in these settings and have religious freedom laws, but the great majority of states do not.
"Those protections and RFRA can coexist. They do elsewhere," the editorial board claimed. "[R]epeal might get rid of the heat but it would not do what is most important — to move the state forward."
Watch: How most states still discriminate against LGBT people
Further reading: How Indiana's religious freedom law sparked a battle over LGBT rights.